Canada's annual film awards are going to look a lot like the Oscars this year, with Academy Award darlings Room and Brooklyn among the nominees of the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards.
Room, an intense drama focused on the captivity of a mother and her young son, led the CSAs with 11 nominations, including best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay, best actor for Jacob Tremblay, best actress for Brie Larson and best supporting actress for Joan Allen. The period romance Brooklyn, meanwhile, earned three nominations, including nods for best picture and best cinematography.
The two high-profile, Hollywood-approved films may appear to be the outliers in an awards slate otherwise filled with more recognizably homegrown fare, including Paul Gross's Afghanistan-set drama Hyena Road (which earned eight nominations), Philippe Falardeau's political comedy My Internship in Canada (four nominations) and Deepa Mehta's crime saga Beeba Boys (three nominations). Yet, thanks to Room and Brooklyn's funding models and choices in filming locations, they're as Canadian as can be.
Both Room (directed by Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson and starring American actress Larson) and Brooklyn (helmed by another Irish director, John Crowley, and starring New York-born and Dublin-raised Saoirse Ronan) were supported heavily by Canadian taxpayers. Abrahamson's film, which was shot in Toronto, received $3-million from Telefilm Canada, while Crowley's, which was partially shot in Montreal, received $1.5-million. (Ontario and Quebec agencies made additional equity investments, and the films benefited from federal and provincial tax incentives.)
A closer look at this year's film lineup at the CSAs also reveals another odd wrinkle: Some of the nominees have yet to open theatrically in Canada. According to Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (ACCT) guidelines, films that have been accepted into at least two ACCT-approved Canadian film festivals are eligible for the CSAs, with the promise from producers that theatrical release will take place before March 13 of this year. Thus, the Kiefer Sutherland-starring western Forsaken can score five nominations, even though it has only played to film-festival audiences. And Sleeping Giant, which only opened in one Toronto theatre in December ahead of a proper release this spring, can be nominated for best picture.
There is also no stipulation that films must play in cinemas across the country, meaning that French-language productions Our Loved Ones, Corbo, The Demons and Felix and Meira can all garner best picture nominations, despite having only enjoyed runs in Quebec and limited engagements in Toronto.
On the non-fiction side, The Amina Profile, Hadwin's Judgement, How to Change the World, Last of the Elephant Men and Hurt are up for best feature-length documentary. Again, eligible docs needn't have enjoyed a high-profile run: It only takes a minimum of three public screenings, or acceptance into two ACCT-approved Canadian festivals, to qualify.
The CSAs were created in 2013, with the merger of the Genies, Canada's film awards, and the English-language TV Gemini Awards. (The CSAs also honour digital media.)
This year, the CBC leads the small-screen nominees, with 14 nods for the comedy Schitt's Creek, 12 for sitcom Mr. D, 11 for the miniseries The Book of Negroes and eight for the drama X Company, among other productions. Cable offerings Orphan Black (from network Space) and 19-2 (Bravo) also made a strong showing, with 13 and 12 nominations, respectively.
Comedian Norm Macdonald will host the CSAs on CBC, airing live on March 13 at 8 p.m.
With files from Simon Houpt